An Epic Journey Begins

Without fanfare, an epic journey of over 4000 miles completely unsupported by modern technology and convenience is likely already underway. According to the Royal Society of Protection of Birds (RSPB), the average osprey migration covers 4200 miles and takes 45 days of 93 miles of flight per day. They will face power lines, wind farms, rouge hunters, rat poison and predators on their perilous odyssey and their safety is by no means guaranteed.

Osprey Fishing in Eleven Mile Canyon

Osprey nesting pairs mate for life and return to their exact nest year after year to raise their young, and I hope my favorite raptor couple makes the trip back to Eleven Mile Canyon safely. I am expecting them to be back in their home along the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon by mid March.

Those amazing birds have been my favorite photography subject of my entire life! I spent most of my summer perched on a cold hard rock across the River from them, watching them and studying their habits, learning when they come and go, hoping for a chance to photograph their exhilarating flights.

It’s hard to describe in words all the entertainment they provide… bringing back fish to the nest, doing the happy dance on their perch and soaring high overhead in graceful circles. I know they won’t be back to their nest for some time… but I still look up there with hope every time I pass… Vaya con dios my friends, see you soon!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Trying Topaz DeNoise and Sharpen

I do a lot of low light wildlife photography and some images even though captured perfectly under the conditions suffer from noisy high ISO values. I have recently seen a lot of good reviews about the Topaz AI products so I thought I’d download the trial versions to see if they might be beneficial to my work. I must add, this blog post is not sponsored by Topaz or any other product.

So the first image I was interested in is this shot of a Great Blue Heron. This fellow would fly past me once each morning, well before the sun had cleared the ridge on the east side of Eleven Mile Canyon. There was no way to wait for better light, the heron made his one flight at first light and that was it. On this particular image I was using a 400mm zoom with a 1.4x extension. Shutter speed was 1/1250th at F9 and ISO 16000. So on this image I ran both Sharpen and then DeNoise in that order. The image on the top is the unprocessed image while the one on the bottom has been processed using Topaz AI. I find that running the sharpen first, followed by the noise reduction seems to product the best results.

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Using only Photoshop v22

Great Blue Heron in Flight

Using Topaz AI DeNoise and sharpen plugins with Photoshop v22

Both images are in the acceptable range, I had originally submitted the Photoshop only image to my stock agencies and it was accepted by the reviewers. However I do find the Topaz AI processed image to be more appealing. The colors are much smoother and when viewed at 100% and details on the bird are more discernible and the eye is especially sharper and clearer, a very important detail in wildlife photography.

This red-tail hawk in flight capture I made was on the verge of being unusable in my stock image portfolio. Just a slight amount of motion blur when combined with digital noise from a low light situation put this capture slightly out of tolerance for viewing at 100%. I found that Topaz AI sharpening and noise reduction combined were able to put the image back into tolerance, thus rescuing a very valuable image. Again, the unprocessed version is on the top and the Topaz version is on the bottom:

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

Photoshop V22 only

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

Photoshop using Topaz AI Sharpen and DeNoise

This next image is a bald eagle also photographed in low light. I wanted to set the camera at a 1600th or 2000th of a second but the lighting conditions resulted in ISO values of 9000-16000, and I was hoping for a clearer image so I went with 1/1250th again. This time I was not using the 1.4x so I was able to use F5.6 and ISO 4000. Again, the Topaz processed image is on the bottom:

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Photoshop only

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Photoshop using Topaz AI Sharpen and DeNoise 

This was a near perfect image to start with so unless looking at it at 100% the differences are almost indiscernible. However even with these small web sized versions, when viewed at 100% the Topaz processed picture is obviously the cleaner image.

I also wanted to see what the software could do with a failed image. In this shot of the eagle I either didn’t achieve focus or there was too much motion blur. Not sure which it was but the image is unusable in my portfolio:

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

 Photoshop only

Bald Eagle in Eleven Mile Canyon

 Photoshop using Topaz AI Sharpen and DeNoise 

Now in this situation the original image is obviously blurry and unusable. In the sharpening window I used the “focus” tab and had to slide the sharpen slider all the way to the right. This image has made an amazing transformation. From blurry and unusable it has become sharp and focused, quite an impressive feat!

All in all I’d have to say I am very impressed with these products and I will be purchasing both Sharpen and DeNoise for sure. I haven’t tried GigaPixel yet, not sure I am going to need that. So far I have found with my 32mp camera my images are plenty large enough even after relatively severe cropping. Also the stock agencies don’t like uprezing and my print lab recommends against it as well. They probably have their own version of uprezing software and don’t want to mess with double enlarging of images.

I hope you found this review useful, and don’t forget to click the follow button if you want to be the first to see my next blog post!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Reprocessed with maximum sharpness

Epic Battle in the Sky

Every day I go out I think is more amazing than the day before and today didn’t disappoint! Yesterday I wanted to get some motion  blur images of  the river flowing through the snow in Eleven Mile Canyon but by the time we were done

Icy South Platte River

with photographing the eagles the sun was too high in the sky, and that much contrast is not conducive to that kind of imagery.

So today my plan was to get back to the canyon early and photograph the river before the sun cleared the ridge on the east side, with the hope that I would spot some more bald eagles fishing along the banks of the South Platte. As I neared the entrance to the canyon I cast a quick glance over at the nest to check on the action there. It appeared that the great birds had already left the area so I quickly purchased my pass and entered the recreation area.

Bald Eagles in Eleven Mile Canyon

Along the way I stopped a few times to shoot some particularly scenic spots along the river with my 24-105 and nine stop ND filter. I began to watch the treetops more carefully as I neared the bend, which is the eagle’s favorite place for fishing. Bang… sure enough there was a beautiful bald eagle perched high on their favorite dead tree. I pulled over and readied the camera for eagle photography, had to completely reset shutter speeds, apertures, the shutter drive mode and attach the 100-400mm lens and 1.4x converter. I carefully exited the truck, being careful not to startle the huge raptor too much.

I took a few shots of him on the perch even though he was in an inopportune spot with a branch right in the way, just so I could make sure I had my exposure compensation dialed in. There wasn’t much light yet so I was stuck with ISO values that I wasn’t too happy about, but sometimes in wildlife photography early in the morning you just have to deal with it.

Bald and Golden Eagles

After a minute or two the majestic raptor took flight and fortunately I was well prepared for the event. I probably got about half a dozen really nice ones before he soared high into the sky. I was busy tracking his movement hoping to discover where he might be going next, when much to my surprise he circled back towards me! I quickly reset the exposure compensation to +0 and checked my histogram. He soared away and then circled back once again… but this time with a few friends! It was difficult to tell what all kinds of birds had joined in but I’m pretty sure I spotted three bald eagles in the sky along with what I thought was a bald eagle juvi that continues to reside with his family.

However it appeared that the eagles were actually trying to drive away the golden colored one and as I zoomed in with the display I discovered that the odd one was actually the golden eagle that I see occasionally. I knew that guy was big, but until I saw him next to the baldies I had no idea how big! That bird is mammoth! And the group circled several times giving me a chance to include more than one of the great hunters in a single frame! Eventually the epic battle in the sky came to an end and the all the eagles soared away out of range of my camera. Unfortunately the light was on the opposite side so my captures are a bit silhouetted, but I still consider myself fortunate to have seen such a spectacle!

Colorado Red-tailed Hawk

It’s difficult to put into words what it was like to see and hear this stunning encounter. This was one of those times when it is all over that I find myself just standing there thanking God for blessing me so. And believe it or not, my day wasn’t over… I had one more excellent sighting of a red-tailed hawk and some great weather photography as our next winter storm rolled in over the spectacular Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range. All I can say is wow… what an epic morning!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Sangre de Cristo Winter Storm

Eagles Preparing for Spring

For the second time this week I failed to find the eagles fishing in their usual spots upstream. I saw one flying high overhead on a fast track to somewhere else, but no eagles were perched on the dead trees along the banks of

Bald Eagle Nesting Pair

the South Platte in Eleven Mile Canyon. I was considering a second run up the six mile road but thought I’d better check the nest at the entrance to the canyon before making another wasted trip.

Sure enough, the instant I passed the ranger station I spotted a bright white head in a tree along the river bank below the dam. I immediately pulled over and tried a couple of shots but he was simply too far away for a usable picture. When I pulled into the lower parking lot I spotted the second eagle and before I could get ready they were both in the air and unfortunately I missed the dive into the clear calm water for a fish. By the time I was ready to shoot, both of our nesting pair were back in the nest.

I decided to wander down to waters edge where I spent so much time last summer to see if I could even get down there through the snow, and also to try to get a better and closer shot. For some reason the snow has melted there and turned into a thick later of ice but I carefully stayed along the edge where it wasn’t quite as slippery and made my way down to the water. Much to my surprise the river has completely thawed at that spot in the river, and also above the dam where the osprey like to fish when they are not at their winter location south of the equator. I was fully decked out in my warmest winter gear today, expecting another brutal ordeal in the arctic wind tunnel, but as I stood on the banks of the river in the bright sunshine it actually felt like spring. I am so looking forward to the return of the osprey!

Bald Eagle Nesting Pair

Fortunately for me the eagles were quite active today… they are busy adding on to their nest as they get ready for the hatching season 🙂 I assume it was the father eagle repeatedly flying over the hill out of sight to hunt for and bring back a stick for the nest. He would give it gently to his mate who would then carefully place it in the necessary place in the giant nest. After a bit papa eagle would make another trip and return after a few minutes with another prize. I was able to capture a few shots of him in the air and a couple of nice ones of them together on the nest, these being my favorites of the batch.

I was also able to get this nice video footage in which you can hear the eagles talking to each other, they seem pretty happy about the beautiful day and spring on the horizon 🙂 I hope you enjoy it 🙂

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Bald Eagle Nesting Pair

A Bird in Hand

My original plan today was to hustle up the mountain and beat the elk to the summit where I would stealthily hide myself and photograph them when they came over the top. However just at sunrise I encountered a nice herd of mule deer at the top of the first mountain and had to stop and photograph them. It was such an

Mule Deer at Sunrise

amazing scene, the sun just coming up, the deer bathed in beautiful golden morning light, surrounded by fantastic scenery! I feared this interruption would make me late for the second summit and the elk but the old adage came to me… “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush”. So I stayed for as many pictures as I could gather. The deer were a little nervous and a couple of the does ran off but soon came back when the bucks decided the lush mountain grass was worth hanging around for.

And as it turns out  I was only eight minutes behind schedule for the elk, which weren’t there anyway. I have a lot of experience with mule deer behavior. You can usually count on them doing the same thing a few days in a row. They travel in a circle and show up in the roughly the same place each day at the same time. They do vary their path by a number of yards, I suppose to throw the mountain lions off track. By the time they are done with an area it is so tracked up that following them by smell would not be an easy task.

Mule Deer Sunrise

Elk however appear to have a much larger range. Once they pass by it may be several days or never that they show up again. So yesterday I was fortunate to see and film the elk at a distance but today I saw deer. A day with any wildlife is a good day, I might add 🙂

The trek through the dark forest was a tough today… I haven’t been through there since the last snow and it is starting to pile up in the shade of the tall pines! Soon I will be needing snowshoes to get through there, which will be an extra treat… nothing much that I like better than snowshoeing!

Mule Deer Doe

In addition to the usual pictures I include in my posts, this time there is a YouTube video to go along with my submission. I was able to capture a few minutes of footage of these amazing birds which you can view on my channel here!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Sunrise on the Sangre de Cristo